After a week of partisan sniping and dueling through the media, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appears to have gained the upper hand over Democrats on the Joint Committee on Finance, regarding cuts the budget writing committee made last week to funding for Van Hollen's agency.
Assembly Democrats, caucusing today in preparation for a scheduled budget vote on Thursday, agreed to restore $5.4 million to the Department of Justice, according to a release from the office of JFC co-chair, state Representative Mark Pocan.
"In sitting down with the Attorney General, we gained a fuller understanding of the impact of some of the proposed cuts to the Department of Justice, as well as what cuts actually affect public safety in the budget," said Pocan . "Because we share the Attorney General's commitment to public safety, we have decided to restore $5.4 million. Despite the challenging fiscal climate, this budget is strong on public safety and will now be even stronger."
"I have been informed by Assembly Speaker Sheridan that the Assembly Democratic Caucus will amend the budget to restore cuts to the Department of Justice that were added after the Governor proposed his budget and were not assessed to other public safety agencies," said Van Hollen in a statement issued by his office. "I thank the Speaker and the members of both parties who took the time to hear from me, law enforcement, prosecutors, crime victim advocates, Department of Justice professionals, and I am sure many others about what we do as an agency and the dramatic impact that the proposed cuts would have had on our ability to assist law enforcement, protect crime victims, and enforce laws."
The tone today was a far cry from that set just a week ago, when Van Hollen, a Republican, had accused Democrats on the budget panel of a partisan agenda in making the cuts on DOJ, and refusing to grant exemptions from across the board budget cuts, which had been allowed for other agencies with law enforcement responsibilities. Van Hollen said the cuts – some $17.5 million in reduced funding over two years – would deter crime fighting efforts. Pocan retorted that Van Hollen "wasn't a math major," and that every state agency would have to contend with cuts in the face of a $6.6 billion state deficit.